Stone Embraces The Spirit of Aloha


When I think of Hawaii, I think of the usual clichés: tropical beaches, hula dancers, sunburned tourists with fanny packs, coup-d’états by fruit corporations (true story), and pit-roasted pork. I certainly don’t think of craft beer. However, I’ve never been to Hawaii, so I realize my cartoonish perception of the islands is almost completely influenced by clever marketing campaigns and ill-informed pop culture references (Brady Bunch Goes to Hawaii, anyone?). Truth is, Hawaii does have great beer (as evident by Maui’s CoCoNut Porter & Kona’s Pipeline Porter), but all of the exotic flavors of the islands are under-represented in craft beer. Thankfully, talented homebrewer and Hawaii lover, Ken Schmidt, is helping to change that.

Remember when Ken won our March Madness Competition at our AHA Rally with his Aloha Plenty Porter? Well, we were stoked to brew with Ken and replicate his decadent creation on a larger scale, and Greg got the bright idea to invite Garrett Marerro from Maui Brewing Co. to join in on the collaboration and bring his CoCoNut Porter brewing expertise to the table. Garrett agreed to come on board, and thus the beer officially became Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter.

BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter

As Mitch started converting the recipe, he was blown away by the ingredients required. Not only were they going to be ridiculously expensive, but he had no idea where he was going to get 1,000 lbs. of coconut, 300 lbs. of macadamia nuts, and 200 lbs. of 100% Kona Coffee. The easy answer would have been to use cheap extracts and adjuncts, but as you know—we don’t take shortcuts. Fortunately, Garrett hooked us up with the same distributor that his company uses for ingredients, and gave us some pointers on how to toast the coconut and make sure the right amount of flavor is imparted into the beer.

Our collaborations are usually between three brewers, but this time there was a fourth player that deserves some credit. Our Bistro team put in some long hard hours toasting 1,000 lbs. of coconut in our relatively tiny oven in the Bistro Kitchen, a process that spanned four eight-hour shifts. When Garrett heard of the Bistro staff’s contribution, he cringed and said “I hope someone’s buying those guys beers!”

Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele, Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co., and talented homebrewer Ken Schmidt.

Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele, Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co., and talented homebrewer Ken Schmidt hanging out at the Meet the Brewmaster's Event.

After spending several weeks accruing all the rare ingredients, it finally came time to brew the beer on June 29th. However, preparing all the ingredients took way longer than expected, and we even came up short on steeping bags (think giant tea bags). In the true spirit of collaboration, Garrett enlisted the aid of another local brewery to resolve our steeping bag shortage: “I said ‘Hey call Green Flash,’ and sure enough they had a bunch they could lend to us, so we went and picked ‘em up. We wouldn’t have been able to get the coconut and the coffee and everything in there if we hadn’t gotten those bags, so the collaboration reaches really far beyond just us.”

Ken Schmidt and Garrett Marrero monitoring the brew

Ken Schmidt and Garrett Marrero monitoring the brew

The brewers decided to load all 22 steeping bags into the whirlpool, which resulted in a near-comical, yet delicious display of flailing steeping bags full of ingredients tethered to the manway, flopping around in a tangled mess as they bestowed their delectable flavors upon the beer.

Despite a few minor hiccups (and a hell of a time removing the incredibly heavy saturated steeping bags), the brew went through the brewhouse spectacularly and is now fermenting. So what happens next? According to Mitch, the beer will go through a dry-hopping process of sorts, in which more Kona Coffee, macadamia nuts, and toasted coconut will be added to the beer post-fermentation.

    Garrett and Ken hauling the steeping bags full of rich ingredients up to the whirlpool

Garrett, Ken and crew hauling the steeping bags full of rich ingredients up to the whirlpool

Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter is unlike anything we’ve ever brewed here at Stone, and Ken, Garrett, and Mitch all had an awesome time brewing it. The day after brewing, Ken seemed to have an excitement hangover: “It’s one of those rare days in a person’s life that’s really extra special, and when you’re coming down you can’t quite take it all in quick enough.”

Expect to see Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter on shelves in late August or early September.

-Matt Steele

The Best Damn Black Pilsner Ever Hits Shelves on Monday


Remember way back on April 1st when we announced our next collaboration beer, BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner? Remember how clever you felt when you dismissed it as an obvious April Fools gag? Stone brewed a Pilsner? Yeah right. Then remember how foolish you felt when we confirmed that it was true—that it was in fact a real beer? Man (knee slap), good times.

Now that the confusion and hurt feelings have subsided, all that’s left is a very real—and very good—Black Pilsner (we know, there’s no such thing, but let’s put that aside for now…or forever). We brought you the play-by-play on brew day with James Watt from BrewDog, Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Co., and our Head Brewer Mitch Steele, but there’s more to the story.

Will Meyers, James Watt, and Mitch Steele - three revolutionaries at work.

Will Meyers, James Watt, and Mitch Steele - three master brewers at work.

First of all, let’s tackle this whole “lagers take longer to brew” myth. SOME do. There are major brand lagers that take less time to brew than craft brewed ales. Yes, a craft brewed lager may typically take longer than a craft brewed ale. Blah, blah blah. Congrats if you’ve stayed with me this long, hell I was starting to bore myself. The bottom line is the end result. Says me. Now let’s move on.

All I can say is that this beer better be better, because this lager took roughly four times longer to ferment and condition than a typical Stone beer (we also bottle-conditioned it for a few weeks, further prolonging its release). After looking back at the brew sheet, Mitch found that primary fermentation took 30 days, and aging (aka ‘lagering’) took 50 days. That’s a total of 80 days that the beer spent training to be the best damn Black Pilsner around.

Bottling Line Operators Steve Parks and Ryan Roersma modeling the shiny new bottle

Bottling Line Operators Steve Parks and Ryan Roersma modeling the shiny new bottle

The eclectic hop bill was also a bit of a challenge to balance. From the beginning, the plan was to use 100% Saphir hops in the dry-hop because it has the most “Pilsner-like” qualities, and the Brewmasters thought it would lend the beer a nice “elegance.” However, they also realized early on that Saphir hops are fairly subtle, and they might not give the beer enough of a hop kick.

Then, on June 12th, the beer gods smiled upon us. In a fortunate turn of events, James just happened to be in town from Scotland promoting his tasty beers, and he was able to stop by the brewery and corroborate with Mitch on what to do next. They tasted two versions of BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, one dry-hopped with Saphir, and one double dry-hopped with Saphir and Sorachi Ace. Lo and behold, they came to a decision. “We agreed that the Sorachi Ace addition kicked the beer up a notch,” said Mitch, “right where we wanted it to be.” When Will was consulted about the extra dry-hopping, his response was: “The hoppier the better!” We knew we liked that guy for some reason.

Mitch and James tasting two versions of the beer when James was in town on June 12th. They decided to go ahead with a second dry-hopping with Sorachi Ace hops.

Mitch and James tasting beers when James was in town on June 12th. After tasting two versions of Juxtaposition, they decided to go ahead with a second dry-hopping with Sorachi Ace hops. They celebrated their decision by tasting Stone 13th Anniversary Ale. Rough life.

Thanks to the unparalleled artistry of these three brewmasters, BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner is shaping up to be one amazing Black Pilsner…err…wait….what? You still have a problem with us calling it that? Fine. It’s probably a Black Double Pilsner anyway. Feel better?

Alright, let’s put this to rest. Just what the hell is a Black Pilsner, anyway? “It’s a Pilsner in the fact that we brewed it with Pilsner malt and fermented it with Pilsner yeast,” said Mitch, “but it’s bigger, darker and hoppier, and it’s unlike any beer I’ve ever had.” There you have it. Settled.

Bottles going through the filler. Look at that gold glisten...

Bottles going through the filler. Look at that gold glisten...

Now for the bad news—we didn’t make a ton of this beer. In fact, the yield was so low that it’s only going to be available in a few lucky locales (see below) in VERY limited quantities, and in 12oz. bottles only (sorry to crush your hopes and dreams). So when can you get your hands on it? BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner will start hitting store shelves this Monday, July 27th. Prepare yourself for the best damn Black Pilsner EVER.

The following places will be receiving small quantities of BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner in 12oz. bottles:

Scotland
Massachusetts
Georgia
Washington
Oregon (Portland)
Arizona
N. California
S. California
New York
Ohio
Virginia
Colorado

Check out information on our previous collaboration beers

- Matt Steele

HOPPY 13th Anniversary To Us…


With all the latest beer gossip just a click away, it’s near impossible to keep a secret these days. Many of you may have heard rumors about Stone 13th Anniversary Ale, but it’s time we set the record straight. Here’s the official word:

Take your idea of a hoppy Stone beer and throw it out the window, because Stone 13th Anniversary Ale is the hoppiest beer we’ve ever brewed. Just how much hops is in this year’s batch? You may want to sit down for this…4.5 lbs. PER BARREL! To lend you a bit of perspective, Stone 10th Anniversary IPA, revered by many as the quintessential hopped-up Stone Anniversary Ale, had about 2.5 lbs. per barrel.

Brewers Mitch Steele, John Egan, and Tom Garcia showing off their creation

Brewers Mitch Steele, John Egan, and Tom Garcia showing off our latest creation

Stone 13th Anniversary Ale has officially trumped our collaboration brew, BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, as our hoppiest beer. Of course, all those hops would be worthless if the beer wasn’t balanced. That’s where brewers Mitch Steele, Tom Garcia, and John Egan came in.

When Steve and Greg gave the green light, Mitch, Tom, and John took the reins of the recipe. The beer went through three iterations before they dialed it in, finally deciding on Chinook hops for bittering and a 50/50 blend of Centennial and Simcoe hops for dry hopping. The careful blend of hops, combined with pale malt, various crystal malts, amber malts, and just a touch of chocolate malt, resulted in a rather tasty 7% abv red ale—but it just wasn’t quite worthy of a Stone Anniversary Ale yet. “It had a nice hop character,” said Mitch, “but it didn’t have that extra something that I thought the beer needed.” After tasting it, Greg even asked Mitch “It’s going to be bigger, right?” To which Mitch replied “Yeah, it’s going to be bigger.” The solution was to bump up the hopping and alcohol a bit, and the result was a very big, very Stone 9.5% abv Ale. As if that wasn’t enough, the brew crew decided to dry-hop it again just prior to filtering and packaging.

Click above to check out the Stone 13th Anniversary Ale web page

Click above to check out the Stone 13th Anniversary Ale web page

When asked to describe Stone 13th Anniversary Ale in one word, guess which word Mitch chose? You guessed it–“Hoppy.” Sure, it’s a monstrously hopped, extremely bitter beer, but it also has a bold malty character that balances out the bitterness. “It’s really bitter, but it’s also malty,” said Mitch. “It’s pretty well balanced; not as dry as you’d think.” Dr. Bill agreed with Mitch when he tasted it. “It’s really well balanced for as hoppy as it is,” said Dr. Bill. “And it has a nice malt complexity with hops throughout.”

Mitch knows that hop-heads who missed hops in last year’s Stone Anniversary Ale will rejoice, not only because Stone 13th Anniversary Ale is a hop monster, but because it’s damn good. “I think it’s going to be right up there with some of the older Anniversary IPA’s,” he said, “and if all goes well, right up there with the Tenth.” We’ll let you decide when Stone 13th Anniversary Ale is released on June 29th.

-Matt Steele

What the Hell is Stone Bombastic Lager?


That’s the exact same question I asked our Lead Brewer (and infamous biofueler) John Egan after seeing the pompously named beer rear its head in various places, such as on the tap list for Southern California Storm and on the Stone Company Store’s growler fill schedule. So what’s the official word?

To sum it up, Stone Bombastic Lager is the beer left over from propagating the pilsner yeast we used in BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner. What does that mean? Let me explain.

When we acquire new yeast to propogate (pilsner yeast in this case), we throw it in our yeast propagating tank, and over the course of a few days we continually add wort to “feed” it and facilitate yeast growth. To feed the pilsner yeast, we added Stone Pale Ale, Stone IPA, and Stone Imperial Russian Stout wort straight from the brewhouse into the yeast propogating tank over several days. Once we were confident that there was enough growth, we pumped the yeast off the bottom (lager yeast is bottom-fermenting) and sent it over to the fermenting tank to ferment the Collaboration brew. John then transferred the leftover beer into another tank, but before transferring it he had a spark of creativity and decided to add some crushed coriander, french oak chips, and “literally a handful” of chopped vanilla beans. It sat for about a week or so, and then we gassed it up and put it in kegs. There were no additional hops or malt added; it was just a blend of a few worts.

“As far as style goes, I have no idea,” said John. “It’s kind of a ‘suicide’ like we did as kids with our sodas; just a mix of whatever is available. It tastes like an ale to me, but it’s a lager—and a weird lager at that!” John added that the brew weighs in at 6.8% abv.

So there you have it. Now when you stumble across Stone Bombastic Lager on the tap list at Southern California Storm or on tap for growler fills in the Stone Company Store on May 15th and July 10th, you can wow your dumbfounded friends with your in-depth knowledge, complete with a healthy dose of bombast.

-Matt Steele

Collaboration REDUX at Jolly Pumpkin this Sunday!


You may remember a tasty little beer with a long name (no surprise there) that was brewed here with Ron Jefferies of Jolly Pumpkin and Kjetil Jikiun of Nøgne-ø and released last holiday season. Well, the brewmasters had such an awesome time brewing it that they decided to brew it again—but with a slight twist. Since the original brew included ingredients from each brewery’s region, the guys thought it would be cool to brew it in each of the three regions, on three different systems, with three unique takes on the same kick-ass recipe.

With the first award-winning interpretation already under our collective belt, Mitch Steele and Steve Wagner will be heading straight from the Craft Brewers Conference in Boston to Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, Michigan this Sunday to brew the second batch on Ron’s system. Jolly Pumpkin’s emphasis on open fermentation and oak aging will impart some intriguing gustatory nuances. Here’s what Mitch had to say about it (Spoiler Alert!):

“The brew is a repeat of the Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale, but it will be fermented ‘Jolly Pumpkin’ style, meaning Brettanomyces and barrels. The idea is to use the exact same recipe in the brewhouse, but I know Ron ferments everything in barrels, and he’s got a lot of funk in his barrels, so the beer’s gonna go through this nice funkification process.”

Although the recipe will be exactly the same (we’re even sending some of the ingredients over to Ron for consistency), we’re excited to see how the brew will fare after the prolonged “funkification” process and extended barrel aging. Having had Ron’s beers, Mitch expects the beer to be “softer, a little funky, and a little tarter than our version.”

The bad news is that the beer won’t be released until holiday season 2010 to allow for barrel aging, so it’ll be a while until we can treat our taste buds to Jolly Pumpkin’s take on the brew. The good news is that Steve and Mitch are heading to Norway to brew the third iteration on Kjetil’s system at Nøgne-ø in July (Greg got to visit Nøgne-ø last year, now it’s Steve’s and Mitch’s turn!). That version, with all of the intricacies imparted by Kjetil’s system, will be released this holiday season 2009. We’ll have more information when Steve and Mitch visit Kjetil in July. One thing’s for sure—these beers will be worth the wait.

- Matt Steele

Washington Approves Stone's Pilsner Stimulus Plan


We know many of you are chomping at the bit for news about our collaboration brew, BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, so we’ll throw you a bone. The brew is still fermenting, so we don’t have a release date yet (don’t worry, we’ll let you know the second we do!), but we do have some news about the bottle label. Jen Knudson, our talented graphic designer, just got word from the feds that the label design was approved and ready to rock!

Staying true to our collaboration bottle design motif, there are three versions, each dedicated to one of the three Brewmasters. Check em out below!

-Matt Steele

James' Bottle Notes

James' Label

Will's Bottle Notes

Will's Label

Mitch's Bottle Notes

Mitch's Label

2009 Stone Imperial Russian Stout Starts Hitting Store Shelves April 6th!


Time to don your ushanka and grab a pint of thick black goodness once again. Monday’s roll-out marks our tenth annual release of Stone Imperial Russian Stout. A full decade and still going strong.

2009 Stone Imperial Russian Stout
Our stellar distribution crew is gearing up for the big roll-out on Monday, so keep your eyes peeled in So. Cal. for your friendly neighborhood Stone Distributing truck.

If you’ve had the foresight to cellar previous vintages, you already know that the recipe has changed very little throughout the beer’s tenure, but this time around we did increase the amber malt a bit. According to Stone Brewer, John Egan, the increased amount of malt “gives the beer a little more body on the mouth feel, and a little bit less of a dry finish.” John felt compelled to add, “the beer is awesome!”

So where can you get it? This year’s release will initially be available in twenty-seven states. If your state is highlighted in SIRS blue in the diagram below, rejoice, for the iron curtain will soon be lifted on your state!


IRS may not be available right away in every state, so be patient.

The slick diagram above isn’t the only thing that our talented Graphic Designer, Jen Knudson, has created. She also designed the wicked 2009 Stone Imperial Russian Stout logo and t-shirt in the style of classic Russian propaganda. It’s a fitting design that you’ll be fitting into soon (if you have any semblance of style, that is).


Jen Knudson, resident Graphic Artist

There you have it. Go forth and cellar, Stone Imperial Russian Stout lovers!

-Matt Steele

See what Ratebeer and Beeradvocate are saying about Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Check out what RateBeer and BeerAdvocate are saying about Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Ever wonder why it’s called Stone Imperial Russian Stout? This video from 2005 with Greg Koch and Chris Cochran will fill you in.

Juxtaposition Video Posted and We Already Have News On Our Next Collaboration!

Our friends Chris and Jared over at the Local Brew just finished editing a video they filmed on Friday for our next collaboration release, BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

While we’re talking about collaborations, Garret Marrero from Maui Brewing accepted our invitation on lending a hand to help brew Aloha Plenty. If you haven’t kept up on the blog, Aloha Plenty is Ken Schmidt’s homebrew that won our 2009 AHA Rally Homebrew Competition. Since this is a collaboration between Ken Schmidt, Mitch Steele and Garrett Marrero – we’ve green lighted this beer as another part of our collaboration series. That’s right, the full treatment of not only being brewed on our system and served on draft, but also bottled for nationwide distribution. There is one difference in this collaboration though, this won’t exactly be a meld of each brewer’s creativity. Instead, Mitch and Garrett will be taking a supporting role in helping Ken keep his homebrewed masterpiece true to the original when being brewed on a large scale. Aloha Plenty is a Robust Porter made with Kona Coffee, toasted coconut and macadamia nuts. I was lucky enough to taste it during the AHA Rally judging and was impressed on how each one of these ingredients were present in both the aroma and the flavor the whole way through. You’re in for a real treat, but then again – I’m talking about something way down the road that we haven’t even brewed yet. Oh well, at least you’ll have an amazing Black Pilsner to help pass the time before that collaboration comes down the pike.

Cheers!
-Mike

Our Next Collaboration: A Pilsner?


One of the things we love about craft brewing is the great sense of camaraderie. The best craft brewers are more focused on expanding the market than competing against each other, and that’s why we love collaborating. Collaboration brings brewers with different attitudes, philosophies, and techniques together with the sole purpose of furthering our craft (ok, and having fun and sharing beers too!). Our last two collaboration beers were great successes, and testaments to the incredible talent of all involved.

When it came time to plan our next collaboration, Scottish brewery BrewDog seemed like a natural choice for Greg Koch and Mitch Steele. “Greg and I were introduced to James’ and Martin’s (BrewDog’s two business partners) beers about a year ago, when we traveled through Scotland,” said Mitch. “We were blown away by their ability to brew hoppy, assertive beers and get away with it in the UK.” James and Martin were inspired to start brewing by the American craft beer scene, and were stoked to take part.

From left to right: Brewmaster James Watt from BrewDog, Head Brewer Mitch Steele from Stone, and Brewmaster Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Co.

Brewmaster James Watt from BrewDog (left), Head Brewer Mitch Steele from Stone (middle), and Brewmaster Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Co. (right) hanging out at our "Collaboration Eve: Meet the Brewmasters" event in the Gardens

As soon as BrewDog was on board, Mitch made a phone call to Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Co. Will and Mitch had known each other for about nine years and always thought it would be cool to brew together someday. When Will got a message from Mitch asking him to participate in the collaboration, he reacted accordingly. “After I got done doing a little beer dance around the cellar I called him back and the rest is history,” said Will. “I was familiar with BrewDog as I’d stumbled across their beer in England last June, and was psyched to be offered the opportunity to work with two other forward-thinking, ballsy brewers.”

Once both brewmasters were committed, the next step was to brew a pilot batch. The distance between the brewers provided a bit of a logistical challenge, so they opted to collaborate over email to brew the pilot batch here. Being the innovative brewers they are, they eventually decided to try something that none of them have ever brewed before, and for that matter, something that NO ONE has ever brewed before.

When Will and James flew in last Thursday and tried the pilot, they confirmed what they suspected—we had something very special on our hands. After agreeing to use a bit more dark malt, the brewmasters went over their game plan for the next day, then retreated to the Bistro where we celebrated with the help of local beer fans at our “Pilot-Palooza” event. It was a fitting start to an epic collaboration.

The next day the brewmasters got down to business, putting in a long hard day of brewing. They started by mash-hopping the brew, which is a first at Stone. The brewmasters adhered to their initial recipe for the most part, but were afforded the luxury of tweaking the recipe during the process (who says you can’t build a car while driving it?). For example, they decided to make a last minute hop addition to balance the bitterness. Will explains the reason for the decision in the clip below:

The immense scale of the batch amazed Will, who brews on a 10-barrel system back in his brewpub in Cambridge. Aside from using 10,000 lbs of malt, the batch required ten separate kettle hop additions, resulting in 326 lbs. total hops (3 lbs. per barrel!). Will remarked that he added more hops in one kettle addition than he uses in an entire batch at home. We’re no strangers to obscene amounts of hops, but according to Mitch, this is the HOPPIEST beer we’ve ever brewed.

At the end of the arduous brew day the brewmasters were satisfied with their creation. It turned out even better than they anticipated. It’s our pleasure to introduce the fruits of their labor, and the first lager EVER brewed at Stone: BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner.

BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

That’s right…a Black Pilsner (and at 10% abv, one might be tempted to call it a Double Black Pilsner…but we’re not…we’ll let the style zealots start endless discussion threads on their own on that…we’re just brewing the damn beer…everyone will have to figure out for themselves what the hell style it is…just sayin’). Aside from being the first lager ever brewed at Stone (and using Bohemian lager yeast no less), this beer represents several other Stone “firsts.” This is the first time we’ve used Japanese Sorachi Ace hops and Motueka hops from New Zealand (there are no American hops in this beer). It’s also our first time both mash-hopping and mash-wort hopping a brew, as well as our first time using more than two kettle hop additions (there were 9 hop additions throughout the wort boiling process).

Of course, as a lager, BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner will have to sit in the fermenter tanks several more weeks than a typical batch, so we won’t be able to enjoy the final for a while. We haven’t picked a release date, but rest assured that we’ll let you know the second we do.

Will put it best when he said “We have a big freaking beer on our hands.” It’s bold, black, 10% abv, and over 100 IBU’s in wort. This beer isn’t for sissies. And if you’re saying “there’s no such thing as a Black Pilsner,” let us correct you—there is now. We just brewed it, and it will be amazing (so says us).

Check out the YouTube playlist below. We’ll be adding more videos from the brewing process soon! While you’re at it, check out the flickr set too!


-Matt Steele

AHA Rally: Winning Homebrewer to Brew at Stone!


Stone and homebrewers go way back. We’ve been hosting the monthly meetings of the local homebrew club, The Society of Barley Engineers, since 1996—back before we even had any tanks in our original building in San Marcos. To this day they still meet the first Wednesday of every month upstairs in the Bistro (the Barley Literates also meet in our Bistro). We’ve also offered up many of our recipes for homebrewers to attempt their own versions of our beers, including our Vertical Epic Challenge, which challenges homebrewers to brew clones of our various Stone Vertical Epic Ales. Steve Wagner, our Co-founder and Brewmaster, even got his start as a homebrewer:

Needless to say, we understand the importance of the homebrewing community. That’s why we’ve hosted an American Homebrewers Association Membership Rally every year since we opened the Bistro. Aside from bolstering the ranks of the AHA, these rallies provide a casual forum for homebrewers to share each other’s creations, chat with professional brewers, and bond with other homebrewers. Our rallies keep getting bigger and better every year.

Cheers!

Cheers!

When it came time to plan this year’s AHA Membership Rally, we decided to up the ante on our homebrewing competition. This time the winning brew would be brewed on our system to be served here at Stone. With the strength of our local homebrew scene, we knew the response would be phenomenal—and it was. Members of So. Cal. homebrew clubs delivered twenty-three incredibly tasty brews, along with four outstanding brews submitted by individual homebrewers.

List of Official Entries

List of Official Entries

We were quite pleased by the strong showing of enthusiastic homebrewers. According to AHA Director, Gary Glass, this was the biggest AHA Rally EVER in terms of RSVP’s and new members. That’s a stat to be proud of, and with the help of local homebrewers we’ll top that next year.

Homebrewers came from near and far to take part in the blind tasting and cast their vote for their favorite. Many drove several hours from neighboring counties to participate, but long time Stone fans Roberto and Jade Saldivar had them beat. They trekked all the way from Dublin, CA, (near San Francisco), where they are part of a homebrew club called Mad Zymurgists. Roberto and Jade displayed true dedication by making the long trip down to one of their “favorite places in the world” just to attend the rally. Noticing my age, they jokingly added “We’ve been Stone fans since way before you were here.”

As the polls closed, four beers emerged as fan favorites. Many attendees were impressed by Eric Holden’s The Event Horizon, an innovative Vanilla and Peppercorn Imperial Russian Stout, as well as Jeremy Jerome’s Admiral Nelson—a tasty Rye IPA. Attendees also delighted in Brad Sayles’s Kalifornien Kolsch, a refreshing take on a Kolsch beer, and Ken Schmidt’s fantastic Aloha Plenty Porter with Kona Coffee, toasted coconut and macadamia nuts. After tallying all the votes, it turned out these were the top four beers.

Once the final four were determined, an all-star Stone tasting panel began the difficult task of judging the winner of Stone’s March Madness Competition. The panel consisted of Stone CEO Greg Koch, Head Brewer Mitch Steele, Beverage Coordinator “Dr.” Bill Sysak, Brewer Jeremy Moynier, Web Programmer (and member of Quaff) Bill Sobieski, Packaging Supervisor Kris Ketcham, Art Director Mike Palmer, and Marketing Director Chris Cochran.

All four beers were expertly crafted, but only one could prevail. After several minutes of tense deliberation, Ken Schmidt’s Aloha Plenty surfaced as the clear winner. Mitch Steele announced the four finalists, and then presented Ken Schmidt as the winner. Ken was psyched to claim the grand prize. “I had been thinking about the recipe for six years, said Ken, “but it was Garrett’s (Garrett Marrero of Maui Brewing Co.) Coconut Porter that inspired me to go ahead with it. I wanted to brew something that infuses all of the elements of the islands and captures their essence.”

Winner Ken Schmidt (right) celebrating with Stone CEO Greg Koch

Winner Ken Schmidt (right) celebrating with Stone CEO Greg Koch

Mitch Steele was impressed with Ken’s Aloha Plenty, calling it “a phenomenal beer.” He’s looking forward to brewing it with Ken (and possibly Garret) here at Stone. “We’ll have to figure out how to toast a lot of coconut and get our hands on a lot of macadamia nuts,” he said, “but I think it’s going to be great.”

As promised, Ken will have the chance to brew his Aloha Plenty on our system to be served here, so watch out for it on tap in the Bistro. Also, because the brew had previously won a Beer Judge Certificate Program sanctioned homebrew competition, we’re submitting it to compete in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF. To top it off, Greg Koch hinted at a possible three-way collaboration with Ken, Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co. and Mitch Steele. Ken was all smiles, admitting that “it will be so cool to brew on Stone’s system.”

From left to right: Chris Cochran, Mitch Steele, Ken Schmidt, Gary Glass, Greg Koch, Mike Palmer

From left to right: Chris Cochran, Mitch Steele, Ken Schmidt, Gary Glass, Greg Koch, Mike Palmer

We were blown away by the quality of all the submissions. Our local homebrewers are arguably some of the best in the nation, and they once again proved that they’re capable of producing amazing beers. We can’t wait for next year’s AHA Rally, but in the meantime, head over to the AHA website to become a member and join some of the most prestigious homebrewers in the nation. Cheers to Ken for a job well done, and congrats to the runners-up. All the beers were phenomenal, but if you didn’t get a chance to taste Ken’s Aloha Plenty at the rally, you missed out. You don’t want to miss it again, so stay tuned for the upcoming collaboration, and get ready to taste “the essence of the islands.”

Check out the AHA Rally flickr set

-Matt Steele